The news coming out of Davos, as always, makes me kind of queasy and resentful. The sight of the world’s super-capitalists, including some former communists, cavorting with canapes coming out of their ears is an annual source of amusement and irritation. I’ve been to enough boondoggles. I know what these guys are up to.
Big news today seems to be about a party thrown by the Russians that included moguls ice skating. Serge Brin of Google (GOOG) reportedly came off the ice with red cheeks. In other news, a trader who earned in the neighborhood of 100,000 euros a year seems to be responsible for a $7 billion swindle. He is now on the run. Times have changed. When I made 100,000 euros a year, all I had was signatory authority for a department lunch. Are the grownups still in charge of the candy store? Two things caught my eye emerging from this orgy of schnapps and self-congratulation. The first was a blog in the New York Times that commented on the power of sovereign wealth funds — huge pots of money controlled by States around the globe — representatives of which gave a symposium today to discuss what they’re going to do with their cash to make the world economy sing on key again.”Now the men and one woman in charge of some of the world’s largest sovereign wealth funds, the huge pools of state-controlled cash that have rescued American and European banks from their own mistakes in recent months, took to the Davos stage to defend their intentions,” the Times reported from the scene.Their intentions… hm… the world finance edifice is relying more than ever before on money controlled by politicians, sheiks, party functionaries and government bureaucrats. True, those people are well-aligned with those who control the “free” marketplace, but there’s a big difference between being bailed out by a world financial institution on the one hand or the government of Romania on the other. I’m only using that as an example. Romania is not bailing anybody out at this point, if ever. The apparently opposite trend came from a very upbeat Bill Gates, who introduced the idea of “creative capitalism,” in which that very same global free market system would benefit the poor as well as the rich. Somewhere in the stew they are serving at Davos is a link between the growing importance of state-controlled capital and the creation of an international system by which the markets that are increasingly reliant on that capital come together to make the entire world a better place.Thank God I’m not smart enough to see it.